Leslie Weber, Chesapeake, VA

Warm-up Question

What makes a thing valuable? What makes a person valuable?


According to Dr. Gordon Flett, “mattering is a ‘core, universal human need,’ a necessary component for well-being.” Mattering is more than feeling like you belong or having good self-esteem, it is about feeling valued by others and believing that you add value to the lives of those around you.

Research shows all kinds of benefits for people who feel like they matter,  which lead to better relationships with themselves and with others. A “lack of mattering is associated with burnout, self-criticism, anxiety, depression, aggression, and increased risk of suicide.”

Dr. Isaac Prilleltensky says you can get a sense of how much you feel you matter by asking yourself just a few questions:

  • Do you feel valued…
    • in your relationships?
    • at work (both paid and unpaid)?
    • in your community?
    • by yourself? (Do you matter to yourself, possessing a sense that you’re worthy regardless of what you accomplish or how you look?)
  • Do you add value…
    • in your relationships?
    • at work (both paid and unpaid)?
    • in your community?
    • to yourself? (i.e. practice self-care)

There are steps you can take to increase your sense of mattering. You obviously can’t change your past or even some of your circumstances, but you might be able to change how they affect your current mental health and your relationships with others.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever heard of this concept/definition of “mattering” before?
  • How much do you feel you matter? (use the list of questions above to help answer this question. Depending on your group you might do this individually or collectively.)
  • What was the experience like to think about “mattering” in this way?

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Matthew 25:14-30

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Commonly referred to as “The Parable of Talents,” this passage is part of the section of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel of Matthew that directly precedes the Passion Narrative (when Jesus is arrested, tried, murdered, and resurrected). It is sandwiched between the “Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids” and the “Separation of the Sheep and the Goats.” 

“The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids” begins, “the kingdom of heaven will be like this” (Matthew 25: 1, NRSV), but this parable starts off with Jesus saying “for it is as if” (Matthew 25:14, NRSV). So, is Jesus describing what the kingdom of heaven will be like (as in its predecessor) or is Jesus describing how the world currently functions, contrasting it to God’s reign? Either way, Jesus wants us to learn from this story.

I have commonly heard this passage used for Stewardship sermons. The word stewardship comes from the words “sty” (as in where pigs live) and “warden” (someone who oversees or cares for something). Today, we use “stewardship” to refer to how we use what has been entrusted to us by God (time, talent, treasure, voice, vote…everything).

With that lens in mind, the word “talent” in the story easily takes on a double meaning. We can hear it the way we tend to think about talents today—strengths, abilities, things you are good at. But in Jesus’s day, a “talent” was a large denomination of currency, worth about 15 years of wages of the average laborer. Think 15 years of working full time for minimum wage. Regardless of whether you are thinking about money, or all the other things that God has entrusted to you, the message seems to be same—don’t just hide them away…use them!

It is true that God entrusts gifts to us, each slightly differently, and calls us to use them to do God’s work in the world. But I hesitate to directly equate the man in the parable with God, because the loving God I know is not a “harsh man” (Matthew 25: 24, NRSV) who calls us “worthless” (Matthew 25:30, NRSV) and dispossesses us if we do not earn enough return on investment. In God’s eyes, our worth is not tied to our ability to achieve. We are each made in the image of God and that is what gives us our worth. It is inherent. It is eternal. There is nothing you can do to change it.

That is the law and gospel of this parable: God entrusts us with great gifts and hopes that we will use them to do things like feed the hungry, provide water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, cloth the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned (see next week’s Gospel—Matthew 25:31-46), but even when we fail at that, our God given worth as beloved children of God remains.

Discussion Questions

  • Which slave do you most identify with? The one with five talents, two talents, or one talent? Why?
  • How do you use your talents to add value? Do you feel valued when you do?
  • What difference is there between how society measures your value and how God does?
  • How do you use the gifts that God has entrusted to you?

Activity Suggestions

  • Do you feel like your youth group matters to your congregation as a whole?
    • If so, how do you know?
    • If not, brainstorm how you might use the steps in the article to increase your perceived value (identify your strengths/gifts, assess your place in the system, adjust your relationships, express grievances and practice self-compassion).
  • Identify your strengths using this spiritual gifts inventory.
  • Map your assets (either individually or communally).

Closing Prayer

Giving God, you made all things and called them good. You made us in your image and declared us very good. Forgive us for the times that we do not live up to that. Thank you for all the gifts you entrust to us.  Guide us in using them to care for creation and serve people, knowing that all are worthy in your eyes. Amen.